Decline at Sea Is a Political Choice

Defense by from The American Interest, May 21, 2013

The past eight months have been troubling for American security and for how the world regards American power. The September 11, 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi killed the U.S. ambassador and two former SEALs as well as a third American under circumstances which have yet fully to be explained. Early in April another American diplomat was killed in an attack on a convoy in Afghanistan. The terrorists who set off the bomb at the Boston marathon two weeks later may not have been manipulated from abroad, but their ability to kill and maim feeds citizens’ growing sense of vulnerability.

Events in the less kinetic world have reinforced the fact and appearance of weakness. In mid-March Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States wouldn’t stand in the way of British and French efforts to help the Syrian rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad, thus putting real flesh on the Administration’s uniquely flaccid notion of “leading from behind.” The U.S. response to increasingly bellicose North Korean words and deeds has been tepid. Deploying more military equipment to the region, as the Administration has done, is wise. But then, during a mid-April visit to China, Secretary Kerry remarked that newly upgraded U.S. missile defenses in the region might be removed as an incentive to Beijing for reining in the North Koreans. It was an exercise in appeasement worthy of Neville Chamberlain. . . .

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